Recent events* in yoga land called to mind an old series of napkin graphs I did on ethics and power over time. The specifics of the drama and controversy are different, the pattern remains the same.
It’s the psychology of power. A dynamic play between ethics, compromise, power, and scandal. On a napkin graph.
The character compromise appears in many ways. Leaders with power carry the weight of the public’s eye.
They come in many forms: disgraced politicians (hi Anthony Weiner, et al.) or academic misconduct (hi Marc Hauser, et al.) or spiritual leaders engaged in abuses of power (hi Amrit Desai, et al.).
Sometimes the star is rising; sometimes the star already shines brightly.
Often there is a community that looks up to the person as a leader.
Often the person is very charismatic. Often many people have invested their faith, lives, jobs, minds, energies and/or money into this person in their rise to power. This community of people has much to lose.
Often the person is in a field with explicit or implied ethics.
Often there is public exposure of the unethical action(s).
Often it involves sex.
Often the alleged actions highlights hypocrisy.
Often there is a range of reactions within the affected community: a mix of support–he/she is only human, how dare the public involve themselves in this [public] person’s personal life, we don’t really know the truth–to disappointment and denouncement coupled with feelings of anger and betrayal. This is the “controversy”. Often the community affected by the scandal is larger than expected.
Often the downfall is sudden and swift.
Always it involves truth and honesty, or lack thereof.
I cleaned up the old ideas and consolidated them into this one which I share in the spirit of levity.
My title for this is “All Too Common“. (Or the “Psychology of Power“.) I draw out the all too common journey of our politicians, gurus, and other stars.
Note that at the start or birth of the Guru, the Guru can choose to move towards more (blue arrow) or less (red arrow) ethical actions. Both paths initially lead to increasing power.
If the person chose the blue arrow for their path (more ethical start), there comes a point when they make choices. Here, these choices may be towards less ethical actions. Their power increases. Eventually both paths fuse. The guru acts less and less ethically and their power rises more and more quickly. Here, the guru or politician is riding a high when allegations of misconduct become public. There is a moment of truth. Their power plummets.
Here is the all-too-common Rise and Fall of the Guru [click for better resolution picture]:
*I generally shudder at this euphemism “recent events” and its ilk. Let’s just say what it is: John Friend, prominent yoga teacher, founder of Anusara Inc., previously profiled by The New York Times Magazine as The Yoga Mogul, has been accused in a very public way of various things including multiple adulterous relations with employees and/or students and freezing of pensions of employees (as reported by YogaDork last week). Between allegations and the start of “official” responses: Roseanne Harvey of It’s All Yoga Baby with a view from the outside about yoga blogging community responsibility. First interview by Elephant Journal, and John Friend’s reported first letter to Anusara teachers. Comments under each article for discussion. People with academic study in groupthink and psychology could give a better context then I can. Carol Horton’s article on Kripalu’s Reincarnation after its leader Amrit Desai‘s sex scandel is the best article I’ve read on how a similar community was able to reinvent itself.
Here’s to hope for all affected. (Especially those who have invested their time, money, and psyche in the disgraced. Do no let your investment blind you. And seek out professional resources to heal.)
Agree or disagree? Other insights? Comments welcome.